Spearhead (TV series)

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Spearhead
Spearheadtitle.jpg
Genre Drama Series
Created by Nick McCarty
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 3
No. of episodes 18
Production
Running time c. 60 minute episodes
Broadcast
Original channel ITV
Original run 1978 – 1981

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Spearhead is a British television drama series. Produced by Southern Television and broadcast on the ITV network, it ran for a total of three series and 19 episodes from 1978 to 1981. It featured the daily lives of a group of soldiers in 'B' Company, 1st Battalion Royal Wessex Rangers, a fictional British Army infantry regiment. The series is regarded as an accurate depiction of life at that time for soldiers in the army.

Themes[edit]

The programme reflects that, in the late 1970s, the British Army had the task of trying to keep the peace in Northern Ireland and maintained garrisons in Germany and Hong Kong. It also shows the inflexible class divisions in the army of the time. The 'glass ceiling' for even the most able soldiers of working-class origin, like Colour Sergeant Jackson, is shown to be a barrier to achieving advancement from non-commissioned to commissioned officer. Early episodes of the series show the army in an unfavourable light; two episodes deal with a petty thief who has a gambling habit, and another deals with an enlisted man going AWOL, until Jackson gets him back. Particularly controversial is an episode set in Northern Ireland, where some soldiers are portrayed as advocating a less aggressive campaign against all hostile civilians (including women and children). In addition to dodging bullets and road side explosives thanks to Britain's poor industrial relations at the time some of the other tasks assigned to the army were fire fighting with 1950s equipment and standing in for striking dustmen.

Through the run of the series, the Royal Wessex Rangers were posted to a number of locations, including to Northern Ireland, to West Germany with British Army of the Rhine, and as the resident battalion in Hong Kong.

Episode guide[edit]

Series 1: Spearhead in Ulster[edit]

The leading character in the first series is Colour Sergeant "Jacko" Jackson (Michael Billington). In the opening episode, the Royal Wessex Rangers are completing a tour of duty in Northern Ireland. Jackson is a member of the battalion's recce platoon charged with close reconnaissance of Provisional IRA terrorist suspects. When the battalion completes its tour, it returns to the mainland UK and is based at barracks in Tidworth, Wiltshire, where it is the British Army's "spearhead" battalion - an infantry battalion kept at short readiness for deployment worldwide. The battalion CO decides that each company in the battalion will have one platoon commanded by a non-commissioned officer. The OC of B Company, Major Taylor, accepts the recommendation of his 2ic, Captain Billings, to appoint Jackson as OC of 6 Platoon.

Episode # Original Air Date (UK) Episode Title Director Writer Cast
1-01 18 July 1978 Suspect James Ormerod Nick McCarty Michael Billington, Stafford Gordon, Roy Holder
1-02 25 July 1978 Leave Derek Martinus Nick McCarty Michael Billington, Stafford Gordon, Roy Holder
1-03 1 August 1978 Loyalties James Ormerod Nick McCarty Michael Billington, Stafford Gordon, Roy Holder
1-04 8 August 1978 Jackal Derek Martinus Nick McCarty Michael Billington, Stafford Gordon, Roy Holder
1-05 15 August 1978 Both Ends Against the Middle James Ormerod Nick McCarty Michael Billington, Stafford Gordon, Roy Holder
1-06 22 August 1978 Thieves in the Night Derek Martinus Nick McCarty Michael Billington, Stafford Gordon, Roy Holder
1-07 29 August 1978 Truth Games James Ormerod Nick McCarty Michael Billington, Stafford Gordon, Roy Holder

Series 2: Spearhead in Germany[edit]

Episode # Original Air Date (UK) Episode Title Director Writer Cast
2-01 18 June 1979 New Brooms James Ormerod Nick McCarty Stafford Gordon, Roy Holder, Robin Davies
2-02 25 June 1979 Matrimony James Ormerod Nick McCarty Stafford Gordon, Roy Holder, Robin Davies
2-03 2 July 1979 Pressures James Ormerod Nick McCarty Stafford Gordon, Roy Holder, Robin Davies
2-04 9 July 1979 Leave Takers James Ormerod Nick McCarty Stafford Gordon, Roy Holder, Robin Davies
2-05 16 July 1979 Repercussions James Ormerod Nick McCarty Stafford Gordon, Roy Holder, Robin Davies
2-06 23 July 1979 Waiting Games James Ormerod Nick McCarty Stafford Gordon, Roy Holder, Robin Davies

Series 3: Spearhead in Hong Kong[edit]

Episode # Original Air Date (UK) Episode Title Director Writer Cast
3-01 30 July 1981 Night Games Derek Martinus Nick McCarty Stafford Gordon, Roy Holder
3-02 6 August 1981 Have a Happy Day James Ormerod Nick McCarty Stafford Gordon, Roy Holder
3-03 13 August 1981 Another Happy Day James Ormerod Nick McCarty Stafford Gordon, Roy Holder
3-04 20 August 1981 The Macau Connection Derek Martinus Nick McCarty Stafford Gordon, Roy Holder
3-05 27 August 1981 Loyalties II Derek Martinus Nick McCarty Stafford Gordon, Roy Holder
3-06 3 September 1981 Futures James Ormerod Nick McCarty Stafford Gordon, Roy Holder

Royal Wessex Rangers[edit]

The Royal Wessex Rangers is a fictional British infantry regiment portrayed in the series. It is portrayed as a standard infantry battalion in the British Army during the late 1970s. During the three year run of the show, the regiment is shown in different roles on different postings; to begin with, the battalion is on an operational tour of Northern Ireland at the height of The Troubles as light infantry, during which one of the sergeants of the battalion's 'B' Company, Sergeant 'Jacko' Jackson (played by Michael Billington) is chosen to become a platoon commander, even though he is only an NCO. Subsequently, the battalion is posted first as a mechanised infantry battalion to West Germany as part of BAOR, then as a resident light infantry battalion to Hong Kong.

The regiment is titled as a regiment of rangers; this distinguishes it from the majority of real infantry regiments in the British Army at the time (the only regiment of rangers at the time was the Royal Irish Rangers).

As the regiment has the geographical name Wessex in its name and Exeter castle on its cap badge, it can be assumed that it is from the west of England. As such, it may also be assumed that the regiment is part of the Prince of Wales' Division.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]